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Master of Engineering in

Program summary

Master the fundamentals of acoustics to prepare for a rewarding career in audio, biology, medicine, geology, electronics, physics, music, architecture, or other emerging fields.

Application deadline

Apply Now to start August 21

Credits and costs

30 Credits $1,007 per credit

Nationally Recognized

US News and World Report graduate engineering
Our graduate engineering programs are highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

Earn your master's in acoustics — 100% online

The fundamentals of the interdisciplinary field of acoustics bridge the sciences, engineering, and arts, with application to a wide variety of industries, including audio, biology, medicine, geology, electronics, physics, music, and architecture, as well as the military. As a student in this program, you can gain an in-depth understanding of these fundamentals that can lead to a number of opportunities for professional growth.

To apply to this program, you should hold a bachelor's degree in engineering, physics, mathematics, or a closely related field that would provide substantial preparation in mathematics. All students applying for degree status must have a minimum of four semesters of calculus (including differential equations) and a minimum of two semesters of calculus-based physics.

Why pursue a Penn State degree online?

Penn State is the only university in the United States to offer a Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) in Acoustics degree program online to any student, civilian or military. Since 1987, more than 200 students have earned the M.Eng. in Acoustics from Penn State. The program has a global reputation for quality that can lead employers to actively seek out our graduates. As a student in the online component of the graduate program in acoustics, you will receive the same education as a resident student. You will take courses alongside resident master's and doctoral students and taught by graduate faculty who are active in research and experts in their fields. Courses are taught during a semester schedule, and lectures are broadcast synchronously from a multimedia classroom with archived recordings for asynchronous viewing.

Your acoustics engineering online courses

To receive your degree, you will be required to complete a total of 30 credits, and you can select core and elective courses to fit your educational and professional goals. Course subjects include basic acoustics, physical acoustics, signal processing, optics, ultrasonics, vibrations, and other emerging topics. You will also be required to write and submit a capstone paper that demonstrates application of the knowledge you have acquired while pursuing your degree.

Information for Military and Veterans

Are you a member of the military, a veteran, or a military spouse? Please visit our military website for additional information regarding financial aid, transfer credits, or application instructions. 


A total of 30 course credits are required for the M.Eng. degree, and 18 of those credits must be from 500-level approved core courses in acoustics. The 12 non-core course credits may be selected from the approved list of elective courses offered by the acoustics program or from the approved list of related courses offered by other departments with the approval of the acoustics program.

Prescribed Courses (18 credits)

  • 3

    Vibrational acoustics including mechanical oscillation, forced and damped response, vibration of strings, membranes, rods, bars, and plates.

  • 3

    Thermodynamic and hydrodynamic foundations of linear acoustics in fluids with applications to lumped-elements, reflection, refraction, radiation, attenuation, enclosures, and waveguides.

  • 3

    Time- and frequency-domain analyses for sampled, discrete-time acoustic and vibration measurements.

  • 3

    The theory, design, and calibration of passive, linear, reciprocal electroacoustic transducers for use in both air and water media.

  • 3

    Wave propagation in stationary and moving fluids; acoustic radiation and scattering; standing waves in ducts and cavities.

  • 3

    This course is concerned with the time and frequency-domain analysis of discrete-time signals and discrete-time linear systems, with an emphasis on developing and applying analysis techniques with applications in acoustics and vibrations.

    • Prerequisite

      ACS 503

Elective Courses (select 12 credits) 

  • 3

    Acoustic radiation from and effects of fluid-loading on vibrating infinite and finite plates and shells. Acoustic transmission through and reflection from elastic plates and shells, acoustic excitation of elastic plates, and coupling between panels and acoustic spaces.

    • Prerequisite

      ACS 501 and ACS 502

  • 3

    Recent advances in Ultrasonic Nondestructive Evaluation: waves; reflection and refraction; horizontal shear; multi-layer structures; stress; viscoelastic media; testing principles. 

  • 3

    Introduction to the basic and applied aspects of flow-induced noise created by subsonic flows of various complexities.

    • Prerequisite

      ACS 501 and ACS 502

  • 3

    Introduction to the application of acoustic and vibration fundamentals to the analysis and reduction of noise and vibration problems in industrial and residential settings.

  • 3

    This course focuses on the phenomenon of ultrasound in the context of medical and biological applications, systematically discussing physical principles and concepts.

  • 3

    Topics for this course include condenser, electret, piezoelectric, magnetic coil, and balanced-arm transducers; mechanical mounting; interaction of closely spaced transducers; and nonlinear response. Computational modeling for analog circuits using SPICE, and Modelica and Simscape™ for FEA and DAE models.

  • 3

    This course will provide an in-depth exploration of the physics and acoustics of classical musical instruments. 

  • 3

    Underlying theory and commonly used research methods in architectural acoustics.

  • 3

    This course will present the essential signal processing and acoustical modeling associated with audio systems used in broadcasting, communications, music recording, and video foley production. 

  • 3

    This course provides a background to the field of computational acoustics with exposure to several important computational tools including: symbolic mathematics software (like Mathematica), finite differences, finite elements, boundary elements, scientific visualization, sound propagation algorithms.

  • 3

    The topics covered for this are: review of thermoviscous linear sound; nonlinear equations of acoustics; steepening/harmonic generation; weak shocks/N-waves; Burgers' equation; sonic booms; acoustic saturation; radiation pressure; acoustic levitation; nonlinear reflections and standing waves; biomedical harmonic imaging; streaming; cavitation and sonoluminescence; parametric arrays and the “audio spotlight”; scattering of sound by sound; and computational nonlinear acoustics.

  • 3

    Covers a broad, but comprehensive, introduction to many important topics in underwater acoustics.

  • 3

    Covers a broad, but comprehensive, introduction to many important topics in outdoor acoustics.

  • 3

    Overview of recent developments in virtual acoustics (also known as 3-D sound, 3-D audio, binaural audio, or spatialized sound).

  • 3

    Provides basic tools for solution of differential equation of acoustics and vibration.

  • 3

    Review of fluid mechanics. General theory of aerodynamic sound. Noise radiation from jets, boundary layers, rotors, and fans. Structural response.

Capstone Paper

The Master of Engineering in Acoustics degree does not require a thesis, but it does require a capstone paper, representing a study of a particular topic more limited than what is necessary for a thesis. The paper must involve a topic that is in the public domain, and it does not have to be related to a research project; the primary requirement is that the paper demonstrate application of acoustics content you have learned from the courses taken toward the degree. The paper must be approved by a faculty adviser and the program head. The Distance Education Coordinator in the graduate program in acoustics will help match students with a faculty adviser.

Examples of recent Master of Engineering in Acoustics paper topics:

  • Review of Radiated Noise Criteria for Fisheries Research Vessels
  • An Overview of Rotorcraft Blade Vortex Interaction (BVI) Noise
  • The Effects of Meteorology on the Effectiveness of Noise Barriers
  • Vehicle Interior Noise Simulation: The Future State of Noise and Vibration Prototyping
  • The Impact of Subsonic Twin Jets on Airport Noise
  • Two Applications of Sound Intensity for Industrial Noise Control Engineering
  • Fundamentals of Guitar Acoustics
  • Computer Modeling for Acoustics with Case Study
  • Validation of FEA Damped Model and Optimization on Damping Part Geometry
  • Comparison of U.S. Government Roadway Traffic Noise Projection Techniques
  • Measuring Voice Coil Fatigue in Micro Loudspeakers
  • A System to Record Courtship Songs of the Fruit Fly

Additional course descriptions are available at the College of Engineering's Graduate Program in Acoustics website.

Costs and Financial Aid

Graduate Tuition

Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.

2022–23 Academic Year Rates

How many credits do you plan to take per semester? Cost
11 or fewer $1,007 per credit
12 or more $12,082 per semester

Financial Aid and Military Benefits

Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.

How to Apply

Deadlines and Important Dates

Your degree application, including receipt of all transcripts, should be received by the following deadlines to be considered complete.

  • Fall DeadlineApply now to start August 21
  • Spring DeadlineApply now to start January 8

Admissions Help

Thank you for your interest in applying to this program. Contact the program to discuss your educational goals, financial aid options, and application deadlines. 

For admission to the Graduate School, you must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.

Admission as a Degree Student

Students intending to earn the M.Eng. in Acoustics should hold a bachelor's degree in engineering, physics, mathematics, or a closely related field that would provide substantial preparation in mathematics. All students applying for degree status must have a minimum of four semesters of calculus (Calculus I: derivatives, Calculus II: integrals, Calculus III: multivariable, and Differential Equations) and a minimum of two semesters of calculus-based physics. An undergraduate knowledge of statics and dynamics, linear algebra, and electronic circuit analysis and the ability to use mathematical analysis software is also expected. Students with a 3.00 junior/senior grade-point average (on a 4.00 scale), and with B+ or better average in mathematics, physical science, and engineering courses, will be considered for application.

Students with nontechnical degrees may also apply (provided you meet the minimum math and physics requirements), but acceptance into the program will depend significantly on your undergraduate background and motives to pursue advanced study in acoustics. 

Admission as a Nondegree Student

You may enroll in graduate courses in acoustics as a nondegree student-at-large without being admitted into the master’s degree program. However, it is still expected that you have met the minimum math and physics requirements in order to succeed in graduate-level courses in acoustics. You may complete 15 credits (5 acoustics courses) from Penn State as a nondegree student before applying for degree status. Those 15 credits of acoustics courses taken under nondegree status may be transferred into the M.Eng. degree program upon your acceptance as a degree student.

To register as a nondegree student, please visit the College of Engineering's Graduate Program in Acoustics website.

What You Need to Apply as a Degree Student

Applications are submitted electronically and include a nonrefundable application fee. If you are applying to the Master of Engineering program as a degree student, you will need to upload the following items as part of your application:

Official transcripts from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State, but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. If you are admitted, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.

GPA and Test Scores — All applicants are expected to have earned a junior/senior grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.

GRE or GMAT scores are NOT required for admission but will be considered if provided.

English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.

References (2) — You will need to initiate the process through the online application by entering names, email addresses, and mailing addresses of two references. Upon submission of your application, an email will be sent to each reference requesting they complete a brief online recommendation regarding your commitment to success in an online program. Please inform all recommenders they must submit the form in order for your application to be complete.  

Résumé — Upload your résumé to the online application.  

Cover Letter — The letter should be addressed to the program chair, stating your current status, general background, degree sought, and an explanation of any deficiencies or requests for consideration.

Statement of Purpose Provide a one-page summary of your academic goals (Why do you want to pursue a graduate degree in acoustics? What areas of acoustics are you hoping to pursue? What do you hope to do with your degree afterward?)

How to Apply
You can begin your online application at any time. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials.

Begin the graduate school application

  • Choose Enrollment Type: "Degree Admission"
  • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus

Checking Your Status 
You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form. 

Technical Requirements  
Review the technical requirements for this degree program. 

Ready to Learn More?

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State master's degree?

Apply now to start August 21. How to Apply

Advance Your Career

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You can use the knowledge gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in industries including audio, biology, medicine, geology, electronics, physics, music, and architecture, as well as in the military.

Job Titles Related to This Degree

Many graduates of the Master of Engineering in Acoustics program are employed in fields such as:

  • Acoustic Engineer
  • Application Engineer
  • Design Engineer

Employment Outlook for Occupational Fields Related to This Degree

Estimates of employment growth and total employment are provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and are subject to change. While these occupations are often pursued by graduates with this degree, individual outcomes may vary depending on a variety of factors. Penn State World Campus cannot guarantee employment in a given occupation.

Engineers, All Other

employment growth (10 years)
total employment

Career Services to Set You Up for Success

Student having a virtual meeting on a laptop with a career counselor

From the day you're accepted as a student, you can access resources and tools provided by Penn State World Campus Career Services to further your career. These resources are beneficial whether you're searching for a job or advancing in an established career.

  • Opportunities to connect with employers
  • Career counselor/coach support
  • Occupation and salary information
  • Internships
  • Graduate school resources 

Contact Us

For questions about the Master of Engineering in Acoustics degree, our courses and schedules, advising, the differences between degree and non-degree admission, and/or any other questions, please contact:

Kris Popovich  
Acoustics Distance Education Manager
Graduate Program in Acoustics 
The Pennsylvania State University 
201 Applied Science Building 
University Park, PA 16802 
Phone: 814-863-6078
Email: [email protected]

Dr. Dan Russell 
Teaching Professor of Acoustics and Distance Education Coordinator
Email: [email protected]

Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State master's degree?

Apply now to start August 21. How to Apply